Thursday, June 7, 2012

Oakhurst, California (June 4-June 8, 2012)

Eleven and a half years ago, while attending a course at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, CA, I became acquainted with a German naval officer in my class.  Besides sharing the same military rank we found we had a lot in common to include birthdays, hobbies and outlooks on life.

Gerald (pronounced gee-air-ard) and I quickly became friends and in our off time our mutual love of photography urged us to explore the California coast as well as others regions in central California.  One of those regions was Yosemite National Park.

Day 1

Yosemite National Park, for me, is the most beautiful place I have seen on this planet. Since my first visit I was very eager to share this wonder with Joyce and the boys so we started out early to make a full day of our it. The park is about 40 miles from our RV park, but because of the narrow, twisty mountain roads it took us an hour and a half. The drive to the park, in itself, is beautiful and has many pull-offs for admiring the scenery.
Remember, if you click on a picture it will bring up all the pictures in a full screen format. 

Oakhurst main street.

Just one of the many vistas on the highway leading to Yosemite.

The approach to the valley ends in a mile long journey through a tunnel with an exploding, breathtaking view of the entire valley below. There is an overview at this point and we took advantage of it, along with hundreds of others, to take pictures and just soak up the beauty.

The last time I was here in January 2003 there was snow on the ground and the temperature was 29F,  it was on a holiday weekend Sunday and the traffic was bumper-to-bumber throughout the entire 12 mile valley floor loop. The only difference between then and now is there no snow and the temperature is in the mid-50s.  Traffic?  The same. Yosemite is the third most visited National Park in the country with The Great Smokey Mountain NP first (yeah, surprised me,too) and The Grand Canyon second (not surprising).  The first two have a very large area to disperse their visitors while Yosemite in very confined and everyone is on top of one another. No matter, it is well worth it.

Our first stop once we arrived on the valley floor was Bridalveil Falls. A short hike from the parking area leads to a magnificent viewing area where one can feel they are standing in the falls. The falls are over 600 feet high and the mist from the long drop covers everyone at the bottom. The area immediately around the base of the falls reminded us of a rain forest. Neat micro-environment.

Leaving the Bridalveil Falls parking lot the first thing we noticed was another waterfall on the opposite side of the valley.  This is Ribbon Falls. This fall drops over 1600 feet to the valley floor and is the third highest fall of the ten major falls in the park. Click on the following link to see all of the falls in the park: Yosemite Waterfalls.

 As you drive around the valley floor loop every where you look you think "how beautiful," "I gotta take this picture," "look at that," and "we gotta come back here." Aside from the throngs of people, the stunning beauty of this place makes you feel you are all alone. This is the same feeling my friend Gerald and I felt back then. I guess the beauty of nature mesmerizes you to the point of feeling disassociated with the rest of the world. We took many breaks for walks, photo ops and, generally, just soaking in the views.
El Capitan

Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls across the valley.

Makes one feel small.


OK.  We've been good. Appreciate the great place and good runs in the meadows, but we've been in and out of this truck for over 6 hours now.  Time to go home.  Nap time is calling.

Day 2

Starting out early again we headed back to the park, but this time we took a detour out to Glacier Point. This is an overlook of the Yosemite Valley and it has a commanding view of the entire area. In one word, BREATHTAKING!  Like the valley portion of the park below, the area was very crowded and parking was at a premium, however, we did find a place and made good use of it.

The overlook sits over 3,000 feet above the valley floor. Yep! Another place where I cannot get too close to the edge. Regardless, there were many areas that were awesome for taking pictures and just plain enjoying the view. This certainly gave us another perspective on this beautiful park.

Yosemite High Country

Half Dome and the Upper Yosemite Valley

Half Dome and The Merced River.

Vernal Falls on the Merced River.

Half Dome.
We spent quite a bit of time at Glacier Point admiring the works of Mother Nature. Much like the Grand Canyon, this made us think just how insignificant we really are.

Feeling a bit overwhelmed, we loaded up and pointed the truck back into the Yosemite Valley for a final visit. Personally, I could never get tired of this place.

Ansel Adams, one of the best and celebrated black-and-white photographers of the American West, inspired me as a child to become a professional photographer.  Of course, that did not happen, but it did not stop me from exercising my love of photography. My father was, also, an avid photographer and for a short while in the 1940s had his own home-based business in Manchester, New Hampshire. That did not last very long, but he never gave up his love for the art.  I guess that is where my love for it developed.

Ansel Adams was, probably, best known for his stunning photographs of Yosemite National Park. Here is some of his work (click here). I do not and will never profess to have any abilities close to his, but I wish to think I can put out some good work. His work in Yosemite placed a yearning in me to visit this place and when I did I was not disappointed in the least. It is, almost, as if one can find an inner piece when visiting here.  I would highly suggest if you are ever in California make it a point to visit.  If you do want to drive there are many tour buses available.

Here is one of Ansel's photographs of the valley followed by one of mine processed in Photoshop, of course. Mine was taken near 5PM while Ansel's was taken later on in the evening during that "golden hour." Still need a lot of practice.

Ansel Adams


Finally, a short video that gives a bit more perspective to the valley.

Our next and final day we stayed close to the RV park and explored some of the small villages in the foothills. We even found an artisan who made a new sign for our RV.

It has been a very pleasurable stay, but we are eager to see and do more.  We are heading back across the state to the coastal area of Sonoma County. Folks say there are some good wines there and we intend to find out. What kind of wines do you like?

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